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Coding on the iPad, iPadOS 13.4 edition

gb profile image George Bougakov ・3 min read

Not that long ago Apple introduced trackpad and mouse support in iPadOS 13.4, so I decided to connect my Magic Mouse to my iPad Pro 11" (2018) and even though some apps didn't include real trackpad support yet, it worked like a charm! Even the hover and drag events worked in Safari!.

I decided to try running VS Code on the iPad, and with a mouse it worked almost flawlessly!

Quite a few people asked me how I did that and the answer is code-server.

GitHub logo cdr / code-server

VS Code in the browser

code-server

Run VS Code on any machine anywhere and access it in the browser.

Screenshot

Highlights

  • Code everywhere
    • Code on your Chromebook, tablet, and laptop with a consistent development environment.
    • Develop on a Linux machine and pick up from any device with a web browser.
  • Server-powered
    • Take advantage of large cloud servers to speed up tests, compilations, downloads, and more.
    • Preserve battery life when you're on the go as all intensive tasks runs on your server.
    • Make use of a spare computer you have lying around and turn it into a full development environment.

Getting Started

For a full setup and walkthrough, please see ./doc/guide.md.

Quick Install

We have a script to install code-server for Linux, macOS and FreeBSD.

It tries to use the system package manager if possible.

First run to print out the install process:

curl -fsSL https://code-server.dev/install.sh | sh -s -- --dry-run

Now to actually install:

curl

It works by running the language server (debugger and IntelliSense), extensions and the file system part in the cloud on a VPS, and rendering the UI in your browser. It is able to do that because VS Code is actually written using web technologies and packaged with Electron.

Let's set it up

Step one. Get a server

It can be a Mac Mini in your attic, a rented server from AWS or anything that runs Linux or macOS, some people have even tried using a Raspberry Pi with an iPad and it works like a charm.

Step two. Install code-server

Download the latest prebuilt binary from the GitHub Releases to your server. Untar/unzip it somewhere.

Step three. Run code-server

cd into the code-server directory. There will be an executable file called code-server

Variant A. If you don't want to set up SSH forwarding (faster, more convenient, requires a registered domain, less secure)

First of all, get an SSL certificate
You can get one for free from Let's Encrypt using acme.sh. Their README is pretty easy to follow, so I won't get into much detail.

GitHub logo acmesh-official / acme.sh

A pure Unix shell script implementing ACME client protocol

Then, you can run code-server with

PASSWORD="correct-horse-battery-staple" ./code-server 
    --host 0.0.0.0 --port [PORT] 
    --cert ~/.acme.sh/[DOMAIN]/[DOMAIN].cer 
    --cert-key ~/.acme.sh/[DOMAIN]/[DOMAIN].key

Et voila! You can now open your browser, enter the password you set in the environment variable and code

Variant B. Set up SSH forwarding (requires an SSH client, but is easier and more secure)

In your SSH client, run

ssh -L [PORT]:localhost:[PORT] root@[YOUR SERVER]

An SSH session will open, where you can start code-server with

./code-server 
    --host 127.0.0.1 --port [PORT]
    --auth none

Now, open http://localhost:[PORT] in your browser and code!

But how well does it work on the iPad?

If you have a keyboard and a mouse, the experience is flawless... almost. Here are a few quirks:

  1. Custom fonts installed via iFont don’t work in Safari (fixed by loading them via CSS)
  2. Scrolling wheel doesn’t work in editor (arrow keys and scrollbar to the rescue)
  3. Lack of escape key (ctrl+[ works, or you can remap ESC and Caps Lock in iPadOS Settings)

Do you actually use it?

Yeah! I am a backend developer by day, and it's great coding on an iPad. Frontenders will disagree because iPad Safari lacks devtools, but let's hope that will change in iPadOS 14 :)

This is my first article on dev.to and I'd love it if you share your feedback in the comments! Also, feel free to ask any questions :)

Posted on by:

gb profile

George Bougakov

@gb

A 15 year-old who hacks things together

Discussion

pic
Editor guide
 

This is awesome, thanks for sharing! I can't wait to try this out :)

 

That's great 👍 I guess things like codesandbox should work this way as well

 

While not free Inspect is a solid app to get dev-tools on iOS: apps.apple.com/app/apple-store/id1...

Feels like this brings it one step closer to make iOS only environment viable ...